September 27, 2021

News

News Network

Secretary Antony J. Blinken Remarks to the Press on the Announcement of a U.S. Refugee Admissions Program Priority 2 Designation for Afghan Nationals

21 min read

Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State

Washington, D.C.

Press Briefing Room

MR PRICE:  Good afternoon.  Happy Monday.  As you all can see, we have a special guest with us today.  Secretary Blinken will offer some remarks at the top.  He’ll have time for a question or two, at which point we will resume with our regularly scheduled programming.  So without further ado, Secretary Blinken.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Ned, thanks very much.  Good afternoon, everyone.  Good to see everyone here.

Before I turn to today’s announcement, I want to take a moment to address a few urgent matters.

First, I want to condemn again the attack on Friday against the commercial ship the Mercer Street, which was peacefully transiting through the north Arabian Sea in international waters when it was targeted by a drone laden with explosives, killing two people.

We’ve conducted a thorough review, and we are confident that Iran carried out this attack.

It follows a pattern of similar attacks by Iran, including past incidents with explosive drones.

There is no justification for this attack on a peaceful vessel on a commercial mission in international waters.

Iran’s action is a direct threat to freedom of navigation and commerce.

It took the lives of innocent sailors.

We’re currently coordinating with our partners and consulting with governments in the region.

And we join others around the world in sending our deepest condolences to the families of the British and Romanian crew members who were killed.

Second, on Friday, the White House announced two outstanding public servants who, with the consent of the Senate, will be joining our team here at the State Department.

Rashad Hussain is the President’s nominee for ambassador at large for international religious freedom.

He previously served as special envoy to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, among other key roles in the Obama administration, and he’s currently director for partnerships and global engagement at the National Security Council.

Deborah Lipstadt is the President’s nominee for special envoy to monitor and combat anti-Semitism.

She’s a scholar of modern Jewish history and Holocaust studies who fights relentlessly against Holocaust denialism, including in a landmark London trial when she was sued for libel by a Holocaust denier, resulting in an overwhelming victory for Deborah and all those fighting Holocaust denialism.

She was also a two-term member of the United States Holocaust Memorial Council and represented our country at the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.

We’re eager for Rashad and Deborah to be confirmed and to get to work, because this is a critical moment.

According to the Pew Center, 56 countries – home to a majority of the world’s people – have high or severe restrictions on religious freedom.

Here in the United States, as in many parts of the world, we have seen a rise in anti-Semitism and anti-Muslim hatred in recent years.

This hits painfully close to home.

As you know, there was an anti-Semitic incident here in this building last week.

That was deeply disturbing – not only because it was a deliberate act of hate toward many of our employees, but because this is the State Department.

And at our best, the State Department leads the fight for the dignity and freedom of people everywhere, and we’re resolute in the fight against anti-Semitism.

So that swastika wasn’t only a threat directed at Jewish people in this building.

It was also an insult to our global mission and our national ideals.

There’s just one response that we’ll make to that kind of hatred, and that’s to become even more committed to the fight against anti-Semitism.

Deborah and Rashad will help us do that.

The investigation into that incident is ongoing.

We’ll share new information as it becomes available.

While I’m on the topic of nominees, the State Department now has more than 65 nominees who have been formally nominated and are awaiting confirmation.

Within the next week, we’re hopeful that a third of those – 25 nominees – will be pending a vote in the full Senate.

These are critical national security positions.

They include overseeing security at our embassies and facilities around the world and helping clear the passport application backlog caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The American people need these services.

The nominees also include those who would lead our diplomacy in vital regions of the world, including Latin America, Asia, Europe, and Africa.

The American people need these nominees in place.

So we urge the Senate to confirm these individuals expeditiously, before the August recess.

Now let me turn to another urgent matter.

Even as we withdraw our forces from Afghanistan, the United States and our partners remain deeply engaged.

We’ll continue to work toward an Afghanistan where all Afghans can live in safety and security, and we will continue our support for Afghan institutions and for the gains that the Afghan people have made over the past 20 years.

Our partnership with the people of Afghanistan will endure long after our service members have departed.

We will keep engaging intensely in diplomacy to advance negotiations between the Afghan Government and the Taliban with the goal of a political solution, which we believe is the only path to lasting peace.

And we’ll keep working closely with countries in the region, which all have a stake in a stable, peaceful, democratic Afghanistan.

At the same time, Afghans who worked with the United States or the International Security Assistance Force at some point since 2001 are facing acute fears of persecution or retribution that will likely grow as coalition forces leave the country.

We have a special responsibility to these individuals.

They stood with us.

We will stand with them.

Over the past 13 years, the State Department has issued more than 73,000 Special Immigrant Visas to eligible Afghans who have helped the United States and also to their families.

Last year alone, we issued nearly 8,000 of those visas.

Now we have accelerated and expanded the program.  Congress recently increased the cap by another 8,000 visas.

The first flight of Operation Allies Refuge arrived in the United States on Friday, the second flight arrived early this morning, together transporting around 400 people, and those flights will continue.

We’re now focused on relocating a group of more than 1,000 applicants and their families who have nearly completed processing – around 4,000 people in total.

Additionally, we’re pursuing third-country agreements, so eligible Afghans can be quickly relocated to wait safely in another country while we finish elements of this rigorous vetting process.

Getting to this point was not a simple matter.

Earlier today, I visited the interagency task force located here at the State Department responsible for executing this 24/7 operation.  I conveyed to them how grateful we are that they’re giving their all to this tremendously important and also meaningful mission.

Now, as you know, the Special Immigrant Visa Program is defined carefully by statute.

And we know that there are Afghans who don’t qualify but who helped us and deserve our help.

Some may not have the qualifying employment for the special immigrant visa – for example, they worked for a project funded by the U.S. Government, but not for the government itself.

Some may not have met the minimum time-in-service requirement – for example, employees who began working for us more recently.

And some were employed by American media organizations or NGOs, doing vital work to support democratic progress in Afghanistan.

So today, the State Department is announcing a new resettlement program for Afghans who assisted the United States but who do not qualify for Special Immigrant Visas.

We’ve created a Priority-2, or P-2, designation, granting access to the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program for many of these Afghans and their family members.

A great deal of hard work has gone into this already, but even more lies ahead.

There is a significant diplomatic, logistical, and bureaucratic challenge.

We take our responsibility to our Afghan partners deeply seriously, and we know the American people do as well.

We have a long history in the United States of welcoming refugees into our country.

And helping them resettle into new homes and new communities is the work of a huge network of state and local governments, NGOs, faith-based groups, advocacy groups, tens of thousands of volunteers.

It’s a powerful demonstration of American friendship and generosity.

Many Americans are asking how they can help Afghan refugees in their communities get resettled.

The answer is to reach out to your local refugee resettlement agency.

There are national websites with state-by-state phone numbers.

These agencies are always looking for extra hands and will be grateful for the help.

Again, I want to emphasize that although U.S. troops are leaving, the United States remains deeply engaged.  We will continue to support Afghanistan through security assistance, humanitarian development aid, and diplomatic support for the peace process.

The Afghan people deserve a just and lasting peace, and the security and opportunity that peace makes possible.

We will do all that we can to advance that goal.

And we’ll continue to welcome Afghan immigrants and refugees as our neighbors, in gratitude for helping us despite the danger.

We won’t forget it.

Thank you.

MR PRICE:  Nazira.

QUESTION:  Thank you so much.  Mr. Secretary, first of all, thank you so much.  I am Afghan woman.  I suffered a lot.  I know about the Afghan people also.  I represent them today.  Thank you very much for your service.

But still, Afghan people have suffered a lot, like especially Afghan journalists, especially women.  They are under a lot of risk in Afghanistan.  Any good news for them, too?

And the second question —

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Please.

QUESTION:  — is Taliban is still increasing their attack, and today, U.S. embassy and British embassy in Kabul said that Taliban kill innocent people in Spin Boldak, Kandahar.  Any reaction, although they sign agreement with you guys in Doha, Qatar?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Thank you.

QUESTION:  Thank you.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  So with regard to Afghans who may fear persecution, may fear violence, and who may not qualify either for the Special Immigrant Visa Program or what I just announced today, the P-2 program, they can also avail themselves of their right to seek refugee status in the United States and apply for that.  Now, to be clear, you have to do that from outside of Afghanistan, from a third country.  But they can go to the UNHCR, for example, and seek refugee status.

We’ve seen the reports of atrocities being committed by the Taliban in various places where they are on the offensive, and these reports are deeply disturbing and totally unacceptable.  And I think it speaks to a larger issue, which is this:  The Taliban has repeatedly said that they seek in the future a number of things – international recognition, international support; they want their leaders to be able to travel freely around the world; they would like sanctions lifted on them.  And none of those things are going to be possible if the Taliban seeks to take the country by force and commits the kind of atrocities that have been reported.  An Afghanistan, as I’ve said before, that does not respect the basic rights of its people, that does not have a representative and inclusive government, that does not abide by the main gains of the last 20 years is an Afghanistan that will be a pariah state, certainly for the United States, and I believe for the international community.

QUESTION:  Thank you.

MODERATOR:  Andrea.

QUESTION:  If I may follow up on my colleague here from Afghanistan, how do these people under the P-1 program even get to third countries?  You’re asking that Turkey and other neighboring countries – Iran – open their borders.  How can they get from here to there past Taliban checkpoints?  They’ve got targets on their backs.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Yeah.

QUESTION:  And if I might follow up also on the Mercer fleet, how do you interpret this action that you are attributing to Iran?  If this is correct, do you view this as an indication of the new government’s policy?  What action is going to be taken either by us, by Israel, or in some way a combination?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Thanks, Andrea.  So with regard first to Afghans who seek to leave the country and seek to avail themselves of the refugee programs, et cetera, you’re right:  This is incredibly hard.  It is hard on so many levels.  It’s hard to pick up and leave everything you know, potentially family, friends, community, culture, language.  It’s – and it’s hard to get yourself to a place where you can take advantage of what opportunities exist to seek to apply for refugee status.  And we recognize that.  This is, alas, the case for millions of people around the world who find themselves in very difficult situations, and particularly in Afghanistan now, especially a group of people who may have worked for us, worked for NGOs, media organizations, women and girls, and others who feel an acute sense of threat and fear with – for the future.

And so, as we see again and again, people have to do very difficult things to make sure that they can find safety and security, and we will do everything we can to help them, including making these different avenues of arrival to the United States for this group of people possible.  We are also dedicating very significant assistance, humanitarian assistance, not only in Afghanistan itself, but to neighboring countries to enable them to support those who come to their countries, again, seeking potentially, refugee status somewhere or immigrant status somewhere.

So that support, I think, makes it a little bit easier.  But I don’t want to deny the challenge and the difficulty.  It is indeed a hard thing.  Our obligation, I believe, is in the first instance to make sure that we are making good on our commitments to those who, in particular, put themselves on the line, put their families on the line to help us, whether it was, again, working directly for the United States Government, for our embassy, for our military, for the international security force, or whether it was working for NGOs, media organizations, and others.

And, of course, as we just discussed, some Afghans who are not – don’t fit into any of those categories but may feel particularly at risk, we also have the principal refugee program available for them.

With regard to Iran, so we have seen a series of actions taken by Iran over many months, including against shipping.  So I’m not sure that this particular action is anything new or augers anything one way or another for the new government.  But what it does say is that Iran continues to act with tremendous irresponsibility when it comes to, in this instance, threats to navigation, to commerce, to innocent sailors who are simply engaged in commercial transit in international waters.  And as I noted, we are in very close contact and coordination with the United Kingdom, Israel, Romania, and other countries, and there will be a collective response.  Thank you.

MR PRICE:  Thank you very much, Mr. Secretary.

 

More from: Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State

News Network

  • DSS protects at 10,000 feet
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Bureau of Diplomatic [Read More…]
  • Local repairman sent to prison for defrauding customers
    In Justice News
    A 36-year-old resident [Read More…]
  • Priority Open Recommendations: Small Business Administration
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found In April 2020, GAO identified eight priority recommendations for the Small Business Administration (SBA). Since then, SBA has implemented one of these recommendations by developing a process for an organization-wide cybersecurity risk assessment. In April 2021, GAO identified eight additional priority recommendations for SBA, bringing the total number to 15. These recommendations involve the following areas: COVID-19 pandemic response Disaster response Credit elsewhere requirement Export promotion SBA's continued attention to these issues could lead to significant improvements in government operations. Why GAO Did This Study Priority open recommendations are the GAO recommendations that warrant priority attention from heads of key departments or agencies because their implementation could save large amounts of money; improve congressional or executive branch decision making on major issues; eliminate mismanagement, fraud, and abuse; or ensure that programs comply with laws and funds are legally spent, among other benefits. Since 2015, GAO has sent letters to selected agencies to highlight the importance of implementing such recommendations. For more information, contact Daniel Garcia-Diaz at (202) 512-8678 or garciadiazd@gao.gov.
    [Read More…]
  • U.S. Army Soldier Arrested for Attempting to Assist ISIS to Conduct Deadly Ambush on U.S. Troops
    In Crime News
    The Justice Department, along with the New York City Police Department (NYPD) and U.S. Army Counterintelligence, announced today the arrest of a private first class in the U.S. Army, on federal terrorism charges based on Bridges’ alleged efforts to assist ISIS to attack and kill U.S. soldiers in the Middle East. 
    [Read More…]
  • Additions of Cuban Military-Owned Companies to the Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons List
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Michael R. Pompeo, [Read More…]
  • Satellite Communications: DOD Should Explore Options to Meet User Needs for Narrowband Capabilities
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found The Department of Defense (DOD) is not using the full capabilities of its latest ultra high frequency (narrowband) military satellite communications system, the Mobile User Objective System (MUOS). MUOS provides secure communications less vulnerable to weather conditions or other potential impediments. The full constellation of MUOS satellites has been on orbit for over 4 years, but DOD has not been able to use the system's advanced capabilities—such as its 10-fold increase in communications capacity. A key reason is the military services' delayed delivery of compatible radio terminals to users (see figure). DOD is funding and developing plans to accelerate procurement and delivery of these terminals. Army Soldiers Using a Mobile User Objective System-Compatible Portable Terminal DOD faces other challenges to its narrowband communications capabilities. In the near term, users continue to rely on the communications system that preceded MUOS, which is oversubscribed and will remain so while DOD works to field terminals and transition to MUOS. DOD has not explored and adopted narrowband communication options, which, if implemented, could help to meet unmet near-term communication needs. In the longer term, the five MUOS satellites that are on orbit have limited design lives. DOD plans to buy and launch additional satellites to sustain the constellation's availability, but without the legacy capability of the older system. DOD has not determined its future narrowband satellite communication needs after MUOS. DOD has not updated its narrowband requirements since 2010 and has no plans to do so, although the uses, technology, and threats to communications have changed. Reexamining its narrowband communications needs will enhance DOD's ability to field a timely replacement for MUOS and ensure warfighters have needed communications tools in the future. Why GAO Did This Study DOD has invested $7.4 billion to develop, build, and begin delivering MUOS. However, longstanding gaps between the fielding of the satellite system and compatible user terminals have limited DOD's ability to fully use the system. The Senate Armed Services Committee report to the bill for the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020 contained a provision for GAO to review DOD's use of MUOS capabilities and any plans for a MUOS follow-on capability. In this report, GAO (1) provides information on the extent to which DOD is using MUOS advanced communications capabilities; (2) assesses DOD's challenges and steps taken in transitioning to these capabilities, and (3) assesses efforts DOD has underway to meet future narrowband satellite communications needs. This is a public version of a sensitive report that GAO issued in June 2021. Information that DOD deemed to be sensitive has been omitted. GAO reviewed DOD planning documents, system assessments, and test reports. GAO also analyzed the services' terminal fielding and network transition plans. GAO interviewed oversight and acquisition officials across DOD.
    [Read More…]
  • Libya Independence Day
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Michael R. Pompeo, [Read More…]
  • Judges Learn Students’ Perspectives in Law Day Events
    In U.S Courts
    Federal judges are creating opportunities throughout May for critical thinking and candid conversations with students about the rule of law, as part of the Judiciary’s annual observance of Law Day.
    [Read More…]
  • 2nd Anniversary of the Christchurch Mosque Attacks
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Ned Price, Department [Read More…]
  • The Departments of Justice and Homeland Security Publish Final Rule to Restrict Certain Criminal Aliens’ Eligibility for Asylum
    In Crime News
    Today, the Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security announced the publication of a Final Rule amending their respective regulations to prevent certain categories of criminal aliens from obtaining asylum in the United States.  The rule takes effect 30 days after publication of the Final Rule in the Federal Register, which is scheduled to occur on Wednesday, Oct. 21.
    [Read More…]
  • Justice Department Settles Claim Against Akal Security To Enforce Servicemember’s USERRA Rights
    In Crime News
    The Justice Department announced today that it finalized the settlement of a claim against Akal Security to protect rights guaranteed to a military reservist, Chief Petty Officer Robert M. Diaz (Ret.), by the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA).
    [Read More…]
  • Costa Rica Travel Advisory
    In Travel
    Do not travel to Costa [Read More…]
  • The Scripps Research Institute To Pay $10 Million To Settle False Claims Act Allegations Related To Mischarging NIH-Sponsored Research Grants
    In Crime News
    The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) has agreed to pay the U.S. $10 million to settle claims that it improperly charged NIH-funded research grants for time spent by researchers on non-grant related activities such as developing, preparing, and writing new grant applications, teaching, and engaging in other administrative activities, the Department of Justice announced today. 
    [Read More…]
  • Food Safety: CDC Could Further Strengthen Its Efforts to Identify and Respond to Foodborne Illnesses
    In U.S GAO News
    The roles and responsibilities of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) during a multistate foodborne illness outbreak include analyzing federal foodborne illness surveillance networks to identify outbreaks, leading investigations to determine the food causing the outbreak, and communicating with the public. CDC also works to build and maintain federal, state, territorial, and local capacity to respond to foodborne illness outbreaks by awarding funds to state and local public health agencies and through other initiatives. In identifying and responding to multistate foodborne illness outbreaks, CDC faces challenges related to clinical methods and communication, and it has taken some steps to respond to these challenges. One challenge stems from the increasing clinical use of culture-independent diagnostic tests (CIDTs). CIDTs diagnose foodborne illnesses faster and cheaper than traditional methods, but because they do not create DNA fingerprints that can specify a pathogen, they may reduce CDC's ability to identify an outbreak. A CDC working group recommended in May 2018 that CDC develop a plan to respond to the increasing use of CIDTs. By developing a plan, CDC will have greater assurance of continued access to necessary information. CDC also faces a challenge in balancing the competing needs for timeliness and accuracy in its outbreak communications while maintaining public trust. CDC has an internal framework to guide its communications decisions during outbreaks, and it recognizes that stakeholders would like more transparency about these decisions. By making its framework publicly available, CDC could better foster public trust in its information and guidance during outbreaks. CDC has taken steps to evaluate its performance in identifying and responding to multistate outbreaks. Specifically, CDC has developed general strategic goals (see fig.) and taken initial steps to develop performance measures. However, CDC has not yet established other elements of a performance assessment system—an important component of effective program management. CDC's Use of Elements of Program Performance Assessment Systems In particular, CDC has not set specific performance goals, used performance measures to track progress, or conducted a program evaluation of its multistate foodborne illness outbreak investigation efforts. By implementing all elements of a performance assessment system, CDC could better assess its progress toward meeting its goals, identify potentially underperforming areas, and use that information to improve its performance. CDC has estimated that each year, one in six people in the United States gets a foodborne illness, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die. CDC data show increases in the number of reported multistate foodborne illness outbreaks—groups of two or more linked cases in multiple states—in recent years. Such outbreaks are responsible for a disproportionate number of hospitalizations and deaths, compared with single-state outbreaks. GAO was asked to review CDC's response to multistate foodborne illness outbreaks. This report examines (1) CDC's roles and responsibilities, (2) challenges that CDC faces and the extent to which it has addressed these challenges, and (3) the extent to which CDC evaluates its performance. GAO reviewed agency documents and data; conducted site visits and case studies; and interviewed federal, state, and local public health officials, as well as representatives of stakeholder groups. GAO is recommending that CDC (1) develop a plan to respond to the increasing use of CIDTs, (2) make publicly available its decision-making framework for communicating about multistate foodborne illness outbreaks, and (3) implement all the elements of a performance assessment system. CDC concurred with all three recommendations. For more information, contact Steve D. Morris at (202) 512-3841 or morriss@gao.gov.
    [Read More…]
  • Secretary Michael R. Pompeo With John Roberts of Fox News America Reports
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Michael R. Pompeo, [Read More…]
  • Contingency Contracting: State and USAID Made Progress Assessing and Implementing Changes, but Further Actions Needed
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found The Department of State (State) and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) identified a number of changes needed to improve contract support in overseas contingency operations, but have not completed implementation efforts. As required by the Fiscal Year 2013 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), both agencies determined that their organizational structures were effective, though State created a new regional Contract Management Office to better support contracting efforts in Iraq. In October 2013, State approved a number of actions to improve policies and procedures, including specific initiatives in acquisition planning and risk management, among others, and intends to institutionalize these changes in its Foreign Affairs Manual in 2014. State generally has not, however, developed plans to assess the impact of these initiatives. Federal internal control standards highlight the importance of managers comparing actual performance to expected results. Accordingly, continued management attention is needed to ensure that these efforts achieve their intended objectives. USAID focused its efforts on areas such as improving contractor performance evaluations and risk management. GAO found that some USAID missions and offices that operate in contingency environments have developed procedures and practices, but USAID did not consider whether these should be institutionalized agency-wide because USAID officials interpreted the legislative requirement to include only a review of agency-wide policies. As a result, USAID may have missed opportunities to leverage its institutional knowledge to better support future contingencies. USAID established a new working group in October 2013 to develop lessons learned, toolkits, and training and is expected to complete its efforts in late 2014. This working group could further assess the policies and procedures developed by the missions and offices, thus potentially affording USAID an opportunity to better leverage its institutional knowledge. State and USAID have increased their acquisition workforce by 53 and 15 percent, respectively, from their 2011 levels and are in various stages of assessing their workforce needs for overseas contingency operations. Per Office of Management and Budget guidance, both agencies identified competency and skill gaps for their acquisition workforce in their 2013 acquisition human capital plans. State's 2013 plan noted that in response to growth in contracting activity in areas such as Iraq and Afghanistan, additional acquisition personnel are needed. In October 2013, State's Under Secretary for Management approved the formation of a multibureau working group that plans to further explore workforce needs for current and future contingency operations. USAID's 2013 plan cited its greatest challenge as providing training for its acquisition workforce, as many personnel have 5 years or less of contracting experience. USAID established a training division in 2013 for its acquisition workforce. State noted in its Section 850 report that it will increase its focus on conducting risk assessments on the reliance, use, and oversight of contractors through the establishment of risk management staff. USAID's Section 850 report did not address reliance on contractors, but in October 2013, USAID drafted a revision to its planning policy that will require a risk assessment and mitigation plan associated with contractor performance of critical functions in overseas contingency operations. Why GAO Did This Study For more than a decade, State and USAID have used contractors extensively to help carry out missions in contingency operations, such as those in Iraq and Afghanistan. While State and USAID transition to more traditional diplomatic and assistance missions in Iraq and Afghanistan, contract management and oversight challenges remain significant because the agencies are likely to be called upon again to operate in future contingencies. Section 850(a) of the Fiscal Year 2013 NDAA directed State and USAID to assess their organizational structures, policies, and workforces related to contract support for overseas contingency operations. Section 850(c) mandated that GAO report on the progress State and USAID have made in identifying and implementing improvements related to those areas. GAO analyzed the extent to which State and USAID have identified and implemented changes to their (1) organizational structures and policies; and (2) workforces, including their use of contractors. GAO analyzed State and USAID's Section 850 reports to Congress, contract policies and procedures, and 2013 acquisition human capital plans, and interviewed agency officials.
    [Read More…]
  • Environmental Liabilities: NASA’s Reported Financial Liabilities Have Grown, and Several Factors Contribute to Future Uncertainties
    In U.S GAO News
    The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) estimated cleanup and restoration across the agency would cost $1.9 billion as of fiscal year 2020, up from $1.7 billion in fiscal year 2019. This reflects an increase of $724 million, or 61 percent, from 2014. NASA identified contamination at 14 centers around the country, as of 2019. Five of the 14 centers decreased their environmental liabilities from 2014 to 2019, but liability growth at the other centers offset those decreases and contributed to the net increase in environmental liabilities. Santa Susana Field Laboratory, California, had about $502 million in environmental liabilities growth during this period (see fig.). Nearly all this growth resulted from California soil cleanup requirements that NASA did not anticipate. These NASA Centers Reported Increases or Decreases in Restoration Project Environmental Liabilities Greater Than $10 Million Between Fiscal Years 2014 and 2019 NASA's reported fiscal year 2019 environmental liabilities estimate for restoration projects does not include certain costs, and some factors may affect NASA's future environmental liabilities, potentially increasing or decreasing the federal government's fiscal exposure. Certain costs are not included in the fiscal year 2019 estimate because some projects are in a developing stage where NASA needs to gather more information to fully estimate cleanup costs. Further, NASA limits its restoration project estimates to 30 years, as the agency views anything beyond 30 years as not reasonably estimable. Sixty of NASA's 115 open restoration projects in fiscal year 2019 are expected to last longer than 30 years. With regard to factors that could affect future environmental liabilities, NASA is assessing its centers for contamination of some chemicals it had not previously identified but does not yet know the impact associated cleanup will have on the agency's liabilities in part because standards for cleaning up these chemicals do not yet exist. New cleanup requirements for emerging contaminants could increase NASA's environmental liabilities and create additional fiscal exposure for the federal government. Additionally, NASA is committed, through an agreement with the state of California, to clean soil at Santa Susana Field Laboratory to a certain standard, but the agency issued a decision in September 2020 to pursue a risk-based cleanup standard, which the state of California has opposed. According to NASA, a risk-based cleanup standard at Santa Susana Field Laboratory could decrease NASA's environmental liabilities and reduce the federal government's fiscal exposure by about $355 million. Decades of NASA's research for space exploration relied on some chemicals that can be hazardous to human health and the environment. NASA identified 14 centers around the country with hazardous chemicals that require environmental cleanup and restoration. NASA's Environmental Compliance and Restoration Program oversees the agency's environmental cleanup. NASA's environmental liabilities estimate is reported annually in the agency's financial statement. Federal accounting standards require agencies responsible for contamination to estimate and report their future cleanup costs when they are both probable and reasonably estimable. This report describes (1) NASA's environmental liabilities for restoration projects from fiscal years 2014 to 2019—the most recent data available at the time of our review—and (2) factors that could contribute to uncertainties in NASA's current or future environmental liabilities. GAO reviewed NASA financial statements, guidance, and other relevant reports and interviewed NASA officials from headquarters and three centers, selected because of changes in their reported liabilities. NASA provided technical comments on a draft of this report, which were incorporated as appropriate. For more information, contact Allison Bawden at (202) 512-3841 or bawdena@gao.gov.
    [Read More…]
  • Financial Fraud in the United States, 2017
    In Justice News
    (Publication)
    This report details the prevalence of seven types of personal financial fraud victimization and the patterns of reporting fraud to police and other authorities.
    4/15/2021, NCJ 255817, Rachel E. Morgan [Read More…]
  • Rewards for Justice – Reward Offer for Information on Foreign Malicious Cyber Activity Against U.S. Critical Infrastructure
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Office of the [Read More…]
  • [Protest of Forest Service Contract Award for Publication Support Services]
    In U.S GAO News
    A firm protested a Forest Service contract award for publication support services, contending that the Forest Service conducted improper post-best and final offer (BAFO) discussions with the awardee. GAO held that the: (1) Service's consideration of the awardee's subcontracting approach constituted discussions and therefore it should have reopened discussions and allowed bidders to resubmit BAFO; and (2) Service conducted improper discussions with only the awardee after BAFO submission. Accordingly, the protest was sustained and GAO recommended that the Forest Service: (1) reopen discussions and request best and final offers; (2) make award to the bidder whose bid is determined to be the most advantageous to the government; and (3) reimburse the protester for its protest costs.
    [Read More…]
Network News © 2005 Area.Control.Network™ All rights reserved.